State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Teachers, advocates in PA prep for new federal education law

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 15, 2016 5:31 PM

US Education Secretary John King, and state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera met with advocates to discuss ESSA implementation. (Photo by Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- As a new federal education law is rolled out across the country, Pennsylvania educators and advocates are busy deciding how the commonwealth will adapt to it.

US Education Secretary John King and state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera met in Harrisburg on Friday with advocates from around the commonwealth to discuss potential school reforms that comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act.

ESSA, as it's commonly called, became law late last year.

It replaces No Child Left Behind, which had been in place since 2001.

King said the new law relies less on strict federal regulation, letting individual states and districts customize their educational approach.

"The way the law is structured, it's really a high degree of state and local flexibility with very clear, strong civil rights guardrails," he said. "And I think the ongoing conversation for the country has to be, how do we make sure that state and district flexibility is used for the sake of equity and excellence in every school?"

Susan Gobreski, director of Community Schools for Philadelphia, said this is especially important in Pennsylvania because the needs of its students vary widely by district.

"We are not going to come up with a national solution for poor communities," she said. "We are going to come up with a framework that allows us to figure out solutions for specific communities. It's a challenge. But we have to get out there. There is no big-picture way to do this."

According to King, Pennsylvania has significant equity gaps among students . He noted strong correlations between race and socioeconomic status, and how well kids do in school.

The president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said he hopes the act can succeed where No Child Left Behind often came up short. 

He said the old law's "one size fits all" mentality was frustrating for teachers.

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